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Ok...so I've read Larry's first PHP book, and now I'm in the last chapter of the 2nd PHP book.  I've bought also Larry's OOP book (but was told to wait and go through the ecommerce book 1st which I think is probably a good idea) as well as Javascript and ecommerce v2.  I'm planning on going over this 2nd PHP book again (skim through, review, take notes, etc) and then go through the ecommerce book v2.  


My question for everyone out there is how long did it take you to start to pick up PHP at say the "moderate/intermediate" level?  2 years, 3 years, 5 years?  I started in Jan 2013 and now its April 2014, I did take off a few months so I'd say I'm roughly 1 year into studying (and ~2 books) - I usually pick everything up fairly quickly but not so here... 


I'm understanding some concepts and patterns but it seems like there is SO MUCH to have to learn and memorize its overwhelming at times.  I went to college for finance and I must say this is much more difficult than college!  Perhaps its the self-paced without a teacher thing that is difficult...  Anyways just wanting to get a gauge of how everybody else has approached learning this stuff.  I'm not going to give up, but, I just don't know if maybe I need to focus on 1 component per week or???  Please feel free to throw suggestions my way. 


I've heard many say "you need to practice by building sites" and I do have a site that I designed from scratch that I also built in HTML/CSS that's waiting for PHP/MYSQL so I want to pursue that but I'm just seeing if there are any other techniques or suggestions as stop and reflect back over the last year.

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I started learning PHP about eight years ago, and there are still things I don't understand.

Also, I can't really remember how long it took before I felt like I was at an intermediate level, but it was at least two years.

Programming is really something you can't rush, especially if PHP is your first exposure to programming as a whole.


If you're at the level where you understand everything that Larry is saying in his books, then like you suggested, the best next step you can take is to try to create your own sites that either extend or are quite different than the sites Larry does in his books.


There are two pieces of advice I would offer:

  1. Don't set timelines because you will not be able to stick to them, and that will lead to disappointment. The key is to keep yourself motivated and moving forward without burning yourself out.
  2. Always keep coding. The more you actually sit there and type characters into a text editor that leads to stuff actually being made, the better you will be. It's a hackneyed expression, but, "Practice, practice, practice."
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I really like learning by attacking specific problems. When I've gotten it to work, I reorganize/rewrite code, comment it thoroughly and try to simplify it as much as possible. When the code "feels right" and your happy about it, you move on. In the beginning, these problems where really simple. How do I insert anything to a DB? How do I load that data, place it in forms, and update any changes? How do I upload images? The key to anything you learn is to break it down into manageable parts.


As for design patterns, object-oriented programming or frameworks, all of those are organizational tools, work-kits or best practices, and little more. There are tons of things to learn in the programming world, but very little of that is strictly necessary in every application. Most of these things are rooted in economics as productivity of workers and maintainability of code can be larger costs than the actual development in itself. Fixing a bug on popular code three years down the line can be a huge expense. Adding small features to crappy code written five years ago might be double the price of the original project.


The point is that you should not be scared of the huge amount of knowledge that exists out there. Most of it you'll likely never need, and as with most fields you need to understand the stepping-stones to understand the advanced part. When you are ready for it, not even the advanced parts will feel that hard to learn. 


Challenge yourself! That is the best tip I can give you. When you've written a small application you are happy with in procedural code, try learning how to do it object-oriented. Always look for improvement and be critical of your work. Make sure to appreciate the travel, and not only focus on the goal. Programming should be fun, not stressful.

Edited by Antonio Conte
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Thank you both very much for taking time out of your day to reply.  I kinda feel like I'm whining a bit, and maybe I am, but I'm really wanting to see how people approach learning this stuff.  This is a personal goal that will bring great satisfation once I'm there so I will never give up that is for sure.  Once I finish this book 100% and review it, I'll be moving on to ecommerce and simultaneously working on the PHP/MYSQL for the website I designed...hopefully with this forum and the books I'll be able to knock out my first site... Thanks again for the positive words here. 

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